Federico Fellini redefined what a good movie should look like – what it should feel like with Le notti di Cabiria (1957.) Every tear you have ever cried seems insignificant in comparison to those of our heroine, Cabiria. We will regret every bit of hope we have ever put in humanity when we are confronted with the cards she has been dealt. This movie is a powerful statement about carrying on, no matter how bad it gets. No matter how ugly the industry, how wicked the the world, you just gotta shine on. Giulietta Masina is both the perfect darkness and the perfect sun.
I’ve checked off my first Éric Rohmer movie with this one. Another director of whom I had movies on my watchlist for a while. I think I’ve had A Summer’s Tale (Conte d’été) on there the longest and I still haven’t watched it. This plot sounded a little more interesting to me at the moment of picking a movie and I’m glad I did watch this melancholic tale of loneliness. The grim mood of the protagonist Delphine is compensated for by the beautiful sceneries of Paris, Cherbourg, the Alps & Biarritz.
The glamour in classic Hollywood movies make me dizzy with nostalgia to a world I probably wouldn’t have liked to be in. Yet I still romanticize the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s precisely because of the beautiful movies that were made back then. Though I’m not unaware of the problems in those movies, especially as a feminist. Women are either femme fatales and serve solely as a catalyst for the downfall of a man or serves merely as an accessory and can be replaced by a lamp. A few weeks ago I’ve finally watched Gilda and through her being constantly pushed into a femme fatale box by her ex-lover Johnny she eventually starts to see herself as nothing more than that. Yet the movie offered a raw portrayal of what this label does to those women in question rather than zoom in on how the men are disadvantaged by those women. The movie is also an ode to all the female actresses that completely outshone the male character & a plea for more female characters in movies. Because damn it, did Ford’s acting pale in comparison to that of the magnificent Rita Hayworth.
It’s the day after the Oscars. The day everyone loses all motivation to watch all movies that have been nominated for Best Picture. There’s nothing to win anymore. Last week they were all stars, shining equally bright in your Watchlist. I want to see The Post. I want to see Darkest Hour. Give me an empty cinema, a soda with infinite refills and enough candy to have some fun. Give me 20 hours to watch all Best Picture nominations. I was so depressed that I couldn’t share the fun with the rest of the world tonight. I went to sleep and all options were open. Could Lady Bird have been the brightest star in the Hollywood skies? Would a female director walk away with so many awards in her hand she couldn’t carry them anymore? I was so rooting for her. I had no idea who would win the Academy Award for Best Picture so when I woke up this morning to the news that The Shape Of Water showered in Oscar glory all night, I had to rethink the movie and I had to reconsider what it means that this was chosen as the Best Picture.
What does it tell you that no one bats an eye when a woman has sex with a fish? It seems I have seen a complete different movie than everyone else. I could sugarcoat it, sell this story the same way the media has by making sure everyone understands that it’s a modern fairytale. But I’m not buying it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this movie. I’m not here to bash it. It’s a beautiful movie. The premise is beautiful. But I have an issue with something that reveals itself to have deeper layers if you peel off the surface. And that’s how women are still disadvantaged before and behind the camera. Directors get away with all kinds of weird for the sake of art. I get it. Art is weird. There are no rules when it comes to art. And to a degree, I stand behind that.
But WHY do male directors feel the need to make their actresses strip for irrelevant shots of 3 seconds. We see Sally Hawkins several times in the bath tub completely naked pleasing herself. Nothing wrong with a little self-love. Yet we’re still presented with the male gaze. Too many times there are completely irrelevant shots of naked women committing sexual acts mimicking a soft porn. In a world where men have used female sexuality against them and have used it to reduce us to lust objects, I have a problem with these things. They remind you of the dark reality that still creeps its way into everyday life. But I didn’t have a problem with the masturbation scene an sich. Only when it’s paired with a scene where this same woman has sex with an amphibian, I take issue with it. And let that be the exact case. I loooved the movie. But thát scene weirded me out. and in the end, it was completely unnesessary. Sex was used to show romantic intimacy between the fish & Eliza (Hawkins). It makes me wonder. Could the point of intimacy and love and unconditional acceptance not have been made any other way? It always feels like some weird fetish satisfaction. The issue is here that female sexuality tends to be exploited in some niche arthouse movies and no one bats an eye because art is always an excuse, and so allegory. You can literally get away with anything if you just say it’s a metaphor.
The story of The Shape Of Water is about outcasts. People who are not accepted because they do not adhere to the norms accepted by society. Eliza is mute. Her neighbor is gay. The Amphibian Man is .. a fucking Amphibian. Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is black (note that the movie was set in another time). Eliza finds connection in someone who will never belong, just like her. He doesn’t see her ‘disability’. He sees her for her. And that’s a beautiful premise. Nothing better than a love story in which two people can accept each other for who and what they are. It’s sweet. She feels the need to save him so he saves her. But they’ll never be saved. They’ll never be part of the normal world. In many movies, the main heroes adapt to what society wants of them and suddenly they’re happy. Being like everyone is the magical cure. Fuck that.
[spoiler alert] at the end, Eliza dies (what a surprise) and is revived by Amphibian Man where her scars are turned into gills. They can finally be together. I thought it’s a cute ending. Could the sex not have occurred then? She’d be half-fish, it would make more sense! Still would be gross!
The Academy Awards has always been a political event. You’ll turn it on and you’ll be mesmerized by the beautiful gowns and tuxedos of all the gorgeous movie actors & actresses that received that special invitation. You stay because you’re kinda curious what happens. You remember seeing one or two movies that have been nominated so who knows, they might win a prize and then you can brag that you’ve seen that movie. You’d be like so hip. All those other losers will only watch that movie after it’s won. That’s so cliché. But wait, your favorite movie didn’t win. Another movie did. And you go online to find out why, and you find out it’s because of race or sex. and then anger gets the best of you. You’ll start tweeting shit like #OscarSoWhite and suddenly there’s much more at stake than an evening spent in front of the tv. And I applaud everyone who stands up for injustices. Especially for events like these. Events that are bigger than life, admired by people all around the world. Yet all the beautiful faces in front of the tv are not represented in the Academy. The Academy consists for the large majority out of white men. And that shows in the results. I was disappointed that Greta Gerwig didn’t go home with anything. But maybe someday the male gaze will not be so prominent in the pictures anymore and women are seen for what they really are: as directors and as actresses. Sexuality doesn’t need to equal agency.